In the Guardian, an adaptation of The Iceberg, a memoir by Marion Coutts about her husband’s last months after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. She writes: “There is going to be destruction: the obliteration of a person, his intellect, his experience and his agency. I am to watch it. This is my part.”

13 April 2010

The operation went well. Tom is sitting up, talking, eating, reading. He looks extremely good. All praise to the surgeon.

Tom is home within 10 days but straight away there are fresh difficulties. He has trouble saying the name of the hospital or the name of the friend who came yesterday. He calls me to the study where he is looking up something in the thesaurus. The word is disaster. “They can’t have got rid of it!” he says. “Maddening!” As he has spelled it distaster, he cannot find it. Physically there is a lot of strain. Weakness and muscle failure is starting to sting him and creep again around the joints, fingers and calves and in parts of his arms. This is steroids at their warring work.

Tom is speaking to me less. The way his intellect is made manifest through language is being destroyed. Great chunks of speech are collapsing. Holes are appearing. Avenues crumble and sudden roadblocks halt the journey from one part of consciousness to the other. He strings words together like ropes across voids. He never panics. What would it be like if he did?

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Photo: Joris Louwes